I have to warm up an amateur SATB choir, and I'd like to do a bit of playing around with solfege. Over the course of the exercises, I'd like have singers go from a low to a high "do," or a whole octave. So, my question is this: what key is best to accommodate the ranges of all singers? (For example, if I were to start on a G, some tenors may not be able to hit the G2 if they wanted to start low and some might not be able to hit a G4 if they wanted to start high.)

What key, if I tell people to sing in their most comfortable octave, is most considerate of all singers and voice types?

  • 4
    Two things come to mind: (1) what is the maximum range of the actual exercises above do, since you'll need to add that to the octave that do increases, and (2) from my experience in a madrigal ensemble, our director tells us to either drop out, or drop/raise an octave once we get to high/low for a particular voice type. For example, with descending scales that get lower each time, he'll tell the tenors to drop out or jump the octave if it gets too low. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 7:01
  • I'd wondered about learning solfege so I could indicate two notes at once, one with each hand. The idea was to play with suspensions, that sort of thing... Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


The voice parts are designed to overlap but be distinct. You won't find a spot where everyone will be perfectly comfortable - the objective of warmups is to stretch everyone to expand every part's range. If you want to focus on particular keys, exercise the parts in pairs (bass/alto, tenor/soprano).

Remember that the focus of warmups is not to sound pretty or to be comfortable - it is working to stretch the range. You'll never find a happy key for everyone. You can either do male/female octave splits or everyone unison.

That said, here are some tips regarding how to use warmups effectively. This is to exercise everyone in unison.

  1. Start somewhere between G-A below middle C. Most people can reach most of the notes of an octave in this range. Do a scale up and down (everyone unison). Then move down a half step and do the scale again. Once you reach the bottom of the range you're stretching, start going back up by half steps. To save time you can also just jump back to the middle and start going up until you reach the top of the range.
  2. When someone can't reach a note, drop out, don't switch. This encourages people to stretch their range both up and down instead of staying in their comfort zone.
  3. Be sure not to stay on either end for a long period; stretch but don't injure anyone. If you end on a high note, do a tension relieving exercise.
  4. It's ok to use exercises that have parts stop and hold certain notes rather than dropping out, which solves the out of range problem and also practices tuning. You can sing a two octave scale where basses stop on Do, tenors on Sol, altos on Mi, Sopranos on Do, moving that exercise up and down chromatically.
  • This from my voice/choir teacher wife, not me (percussionist).
    – Josiah
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 16:44

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